Purdue Bands beats winter blahs with musical treats

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Music that takes you on an armchair voyage from Brazil to Japan, an appearance by Indianapolis Symphony hornist Julie Beckel Yager and the introduction of Purdue’s new Wind Ensemble are all part of Purdue Bands & Orchestras’ Winter Music Gala this weekend at the Long Center.

The debut of the Wind Ensemble, conducted by University Bands Director Jay Gephart, combines with a performance by the Symphonic Band at 8 p.m. Friday (Feb. 19). Varsity, Collegiate and Purdue Concert Bands are featured at 8 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 20). The Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras perform at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 21).

All concerts are held at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette, and all are free.

“The great thing about the new Wind Ensemble is that it’s a smaller group, so you have a chance to work on details and get a cleaner, more refined performance,” Gephart said of the department’s top concert ensemble.

The 77-member group, made up of the department’s top student musicians, offers Gephart the chance to play pieces like Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” as well as Maslanka’s “Morning Star” that demands advanced technique from the woodwinds and might not be performed otherwise.

Maslanka’s contemporary “Morning Star” is written as a rondo, which typically has a recurring musical theme. But in this complex piece, the recurring theme’s never quite the same.

“You hear it 20 some times and each time it’s a variation,” says Gephart. “We’ve really enjoyed working on this piece. It’s very tuneful and has a colorful use of percussion.”

The Wind Ensemble also performs Malcolm Arnold’s “Tam O’Shanter,” based on a classic poem by Scotland’s Robert Burns; “Hymn of Brotherhood” by Scandinavian composer Egbert van Groningen; and Samuel Hazo’s “Arabesque.”

Highlighting the Symphonic Band’s portion of Friday’s concert is a concert band setting of “For the Beauty of the Earth,” a Christian hymn linked with Thanksgiving, and “Clowns” by Philip Parker. Written in the style of a gallop, the piece’s pace and unpredictable harmonies depict the zany antics of circus clowns. The band also performs John Mackey’s “Aurora Awakes,” which is inspired by the Roman goddess of the dawn and ends in an explosion of energy.

On Saturday, Feb. 20, there’s an international feeling to the pieces performed by the Varsity, Collegiate and Purdue Concert Bands. Opening the concert, Varsity Band performs “Amparito Roca” by Spanish composer Jaime Texidor, which is paso doble dance tune depicting the drama of bullfighting. It also presents Percy Grainger’s “Australian Up-Country Tune,” which represents the composer’s attempt to tap into the feelings of common folk like Steven Foster did in the American Midwest.

Collegiate Band references Grainger’s music in Robert Sheldon’s “A Longford Legend,” based on three poems in a collection of “Irish Street Ballades” and created as a tribute to Grainger, Holst and Vaughan Williams. In Jim Casella’s “Stormbreak,” a percussion octet will be featured, and Collegiate Band’s portion of the concert concludes with “The Winds of Poseidon” from Robert Smith’s “Second Symphony.”

Traveling to another part of the globe, the Purdue Concert Band presents Robert Smith’s “Brazil: Ceremony, Song and Samba,” based upon authentic Afro-Brazilian percussion grooves. It illustrates the impact of the African experience on South American music.

On Sunday, Feb. 21, guest hornist Julie Beckel Yager from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will perform Mozart’s “Horn Concerto No. 4” with the Purdue Symphony Orchestra.

Their portion of the concert also includes Joseph Haydn’s “Symphony No. 104” known as the “London Symphony” because the Austrian composer created it, among others, while visiting England.

Under the baton of Andrew King, the Philharmonic Symphony concludes Sunday’s program with the Shostakovich “Symphony No. 5.” The piece was written in 1937 during the height of the “Great Terror” under Stalin in Russia. The finale is based on melodic material from the Shostakovich song “Rebirth” inspired by a Pushkin poem.

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 May 2019
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